Firas Zahabi: Rory Had To Save More For Later In The Fight

Not only was UFC 189 (July 11, 2015) one of the best overall events of all-time, but it featured one of the greatest fights the sport has ever seen as well, as welterweight champion “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler put his title on the line against Canadian star Rory “Red King” MacDonald.

The two battled it out in a back and forth five round bloody war, in which the champion ultimately prevailed, shattering MacDonald’s nose in the final frame, and scoring a spectacular TKO victory. The unfortunate thing for MacDonald, however, is that the “Red King” was actually up three rounds to one on all of the judges’ score cards going into the fifth.

Speaking on today’s (July 14, 2015) edition of the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, MacDonald’s longtime trainer at the famed Tristar Gym, said that he saw the fight in the same way the judges did, and admitted that going into the final round, he told MacDonald to just be smart:

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“Yes, yes, absolutely, I had it exactly as the judges had it, three to one,” Zahabi said. “And I told Rory right before going into round five, I said all you have to do is just be the smartest fighter in the world and you become world champion, you’re winning, three to one. I had the exact same card as the judges.”

MacDonald looks like a different man after the fight, and not only did he break his nose, but it was also reported that he suffered a broken foot. Zahabi stated that he was aware of the broken nose, but not the foot, and that he advised the “Red King” to avoid eating shots to the nose, but as we know now, MacDonald was unable to:

“I wasn’t aware it was a fractured foot, but I was aware that his nose was broken,” he said. “There’s nothing I could do about it. We brought in the cutman to help him work on it, but at the end of the day there’s nothing you can do about it. I just wanted him to adjust and avoid getting hit again, but he wasn’t able to avoid getting hit again and it was just too much.”

At the end of the day, Zahabi, who knows all about championship fights as he coached longtime welterweight king Georges St. Pierre, said that MacDonald was fighting at a three-round pace, while Lawler was fighting at a five-round pace:

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“In my opinion, I think Rory has to learn that a five-round fight is different type of cardio, it’s a different pace,” he said. “I’ve prepared Georges for a lot of five-rounders, I think 10 five-rounders, I can’t remember how many. But it’s a different pace. “I think Rory was fighting a three-round pace, and Robbie was fighting a five-round pace, and that made a huge difference. I think if it was three-round fight, Rory would win two rounds to one, and it would be pretty decisive. I don’t think anybody would argue with that. But at the end, five-round fights are different fights and I think Rory has to explore that more and hopefully get a few more five-round fights in his career and he’ll really start to understand what a five-round fight is, because 10 more minutes is a whole different world.”

However, Zahabi said that the “Red King” executed the game plan well, he just tired a bit, and five-rounds is something MacDonald’s going to have to get used to:

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“He executed [the game plan] beautifully,” Zahabi said. “He went for the finish. He worked really hard and I think he tired himself out a bit, and Robbie kind of got a second wind late in the fourth round. Again, Robbie’s been deep in the five-rounders before, hard five rounders. [It was] Rory’s first time, and I think he had to save a little more for later in the fight. I think he put a little bit too much in round No. four, possibly.”

Who should MacDonald meet when he heals up?